The Safety Hazards of “Falling Back”

When Daylight Saving Time ends – for 2019, that’s 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 3 – except for Hawaii and Arizona – many will enjoy an extra hour’s sleep – but many people will find themselves spending more time driving in the dark.

Depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision can be compromised in the dark, and the glare of headlights from an oncoming vehicle can temporarily blind a driver.

According to the National Safety Council, a National Sleep Foundation poll says 60% of adults have driven while they were tired, and another 37%, or 103 million people, have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Of those, 13% say they fall asleep while driving at least once a month, and 4% say they have caused a crash by falling asleep while driving. The reasons are many – shift work, lack of quality sleep, long work hours, sleep disorders – and it doesn’t only happen on lengthy trips.

Nearly 30 people die every day in crashes that involve a driver impaired by alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drivers impaired by prescription medicines and other drugs increase that number significantly. Impaired drivers are most frequently on the road after dark – particularly between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. on weekends.

Between 2013 and 2014, 22% of drivers tested positive for a drug that would cause impairment, according to a roadside survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA also found that the prevalence of THC (found in marijuana) among drivers on weekend nights increased 48% since 2007, from 8.6% of drivers to 12.6%.

Many states have not yet updated their impaired driving laws to address this growing problem.

A report by NHTSA states that 100,000 police-reported crashes are a result of driver fatigue. Most crashes or near-misses happen at the times you would expect drivers to be tired: 4 to 6 a.m., midnight to 2 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m., according to
the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

Drowsy driving puts everyone on the road at risk. Losing two hours of sleep has the same effect on driving as having three beers, and tired drivers are three times more likely to be in a car crash if they are fatigued.

The National Sleep Foundation offers this advice:

  • Get seven or more hours of sleep a night;
  • Don’t drive if you’ve been awake for 16 hours or more;
  • Stop every two hours to rest;
  • Pull over and take a nap if you’re drowsy; and
  • Travel during times you are normally awake.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *